C-SPAN’s Failed Balancing Act: Airing Public Events Discussing Israel

C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) is predictable. Each year at this time (since at least 2014) ostensibly showing balance ahead of its coverage of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, C-SPAN airs an anti-Israel day-long meeting devoted to slamming supporters of Israel.

This year the meeting was billed as the “Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference 2019.” Last year’s meeting was billed as “The Israel Lobby and American Policy.” It was reported by CAMERA as “C-SPAN Airs Pro-Palestinian Propagandists Slamming Supporters of Israel”(March 31, 2018).

The balancing act falls flat here since while AIPAC is effective in advocating for Israel, its message cannot be legitimately balanced by a group concentrating on disseminating disinformation vilifying Israel and its supporters. So again, potentially Millions of C-SPAN viewers were subjected to anti-Israel indoctrination without the network even bothering to issue a standard broadcast disclaimer such as: “Points of view expressed in this program are not necessarily those of this network.”

This meeting of the anti-Israel group was the 6th consecutive annual such one held in Washington D.C. It was promoted by the group as: “On March 22, 2019, just two days before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee holds its annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center, a polar opposite gathering of top thinkers, activists, authors, politicians and experts will meet at an even more prestigious location: The National Press Club.”

Not exactly accurate.   

Conveying mainly distortions and falsehoods

The main sponsor of the annual meeting is Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) magazine, a falsehood filled, virulently anti-Israel, anti-Jewish publication. For example, WRMEA in 1992 suggested that Israel’s Mossad killed John F. Kennedy, and later claimed that Israel was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

The serious propagandizing started with Delinda Hanley (Director of WRMEA).

(Speakers: Delinda Hanley, Walter Hixson, Ali Abunimah)

Sampling Hanley:

I was stunned when the press and legislators went nuts accusing [Ilhan] Omar of using anti-Israel tropes … it’s the charge the lobby always makes to discredit people who dare to speak out. It’s the only response possible. That is because not even the Israel lobby can provide a persuasive defense of [what is done in] the area Israel occupies, shooting unarmed protesters, including children and medical workers, building ever more colonies or settlements, constructing apartheid walls and roads.
[…]
The Israel lobby pushes the idea that our two nations have shared values. Sadly, that is becoming increasingly true. As Israeli elections near, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing divisive politics. He declared that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and them alone, implying 1.8 million Arabs and other minorities are at best second class citizens.
[…]
Like Ilhan Omar I’m proud to stand up for real American values and I know you are, too. Thank you for being here today. [applause].

Hanley’s complaint charging indiscriminate shootings is false and cannot be substantiated. Likewise, the complaint about “building ever more colonies or settlements, constructing apartheid walls and roads” is false. The fact is that only one new Israeli settlement, Amichai in February 2018, has been constructed in more than two decades. Other than that one settlement, the construction that does take place consists of additional housing units within existing settlements on Jewish owned land.

The “colonies or settlements” were created after the 1967 Six-Day War for both security and ideological reasons and were supported by both of the major Israeli political parties, Labor and Likud. In many places, historic Jewish communities were re-established after having been destroyed by Arab fighters and prohibited to Jews during the Jordanian occupation of 1948-67.

Hanley misleads when she claims minorities in Israel are second class citizens. In Israel, Arabs, Druze and Christians have equal rights and serve in high positions in government, business, the arts and academia.

Hanley admires problematic Ilhan Omar

Hanley gives herself away by identifying with Ilhan Omar, Muslim-American Minnesota Democrat Congresswoman. Omar’s March 23, 2019 speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) trivialized the Sept. 11, 2001 Islamist terrorist attacks on America that killed nearly 3000, “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

Omar’s association with CAIR is noteworthy. In United States v. Holy Land Foundation — which was ultimately decided in November 2008 — the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, Texas, listed CAIR as an “unindicted co-conspirator” with the Holy Land Foundation, a now-defunct fundraiser for the terrorist group Hamas. This in turn prompted the FBI to sever ties with CAIR which the federal agency had maintained in its connection to civil rights groups. Recently, the executive director of CAIR Los Angeles called for the termination of Israel. In October 2017, Omar (a Somali-American) had criticized a writer’s statement for not mentioning  “the thousands of Somalis killed by the American forces that day.” But this charge is, at the least, a gross exaggeration. The false charge is related to U.S. defense against Somali militias that assaulted U.S. forces that went to retrieve the crew of a downed helicopter (the 1993 ‘Black Hawk Down’ event). 

Omar has falsely accused American Jews of dual loyalty. In 2019, she said that pro-Israel groups “push allegiance to a foreign country.” But there’s no similar false charge about American pro-Italy or pro-Canada or pro-Ireland (and so forth) groups. Jews have fought in every one of the U.S. wars. More than 250,000 fought in World War I and 500,000 in World War II. This is a proportion greater than their proportion in the population. 16 Jewish soldiers have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration an American service member can receive for heroism and bravery in battle. It is presented by the President of the United States.

On the other hand, it is Omar who is vulnerable to the charge of dual or even superior loyalty. “[Ilhan] Omar’s anti-Semitism has been in full-throated, open display entirely consistent with the crude Islamist neo-anti-Semitism that typifies the indoctrinated Islamist.” This is the view of a Muslim, Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a physician, and a respected commentator who has appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, BBC and NPR. Islamists proclaim that Islam has superseded both Judaism and Christianity. Islamists hold to Sharia law, a set of Islamic laws that covers all aspects of a Muslim’s life. Sharia law seems to be incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.

Walter Hixson

• Sampling Hixson:

All of you already know that the Israel lobby is extremely powerful. For the record, it constitutes easily the most powerful diaspera lobby representing the interest of a foreign nation of all of American history… The Palestinians and the Arab world had no comparable lobby in the United States … The United States supported a massive influx of Jewish migrants and glossed over the ethic cleansing of Palestine … President Johnson apparently did not directly green light Israel’s initiation of the June 1967 war, but neither did he flash a red signal.
[…]
By 1967 Israel and the lobby achieved a stranglehold over modern modern American political life. The Lobby achieved its success by circumventing the foreign policy bureaucracy, and applying pressure directly on the president, and the congress, through campaigns to secure financial assistance, armaments and unstinting diplomatic support for Israel… For most of its existence, Israel has been led by men who should be held accountable for war crimes. [applause].
[…]
The lobby provides cover for Israel’s congenital aggression, its pursuit of land over peace, its flaunting of international law. While Israel carries out violent and criminal acts, the lobby functions to insulate it.

Hixson, a professor of history at the University of Akron (Ohio), has previously used his academic credentials to spread hate and misinformation. Hixson claims here that the “Israel lobby” [AIPAC] “constitutes easily the most powerful diaspera lobby representing the interest of a foreign nation of all of American history.” This claim is misleading. He ignores major lobbying efforts outspending the “Israel lobby.” This includes lobbies for South Korea, Japan, Canada, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.

AIPAC is far from all-powerful. It has lost major battles on critical issues and prior to 1970, despite AIPAC’s efforts, U.S. government support for Israel was minimal. And whatever success AIPAC has is essentially due to effectively presenting the facts. Clearly, Hixson’s remarks dealing with the nature of Israel’s leadership and actions are not those of a legitimate historian but rather those of a propagandist with little regard for truth and accuracy.

Ali Abunimah

• Sampling Abunimah:

[These are] completely bogus Israel lobby talking points and Israeli propaganda. You know, the so-called [Hamas] terror tunnels from Gaza, you know, they presented this as if Palestinians are digging tunnels from Gaza to come up in Israeli kindergartens and Israeli bedrooms. This is a total lie. There is no case ever where Palestinians have used a tunnel to do anything from Gaza other than to attack legitimate military targets.

Abunimah, a radical anti-Israel activist masquerading as a journalist, has typically falsified here. Any lack of success by the Hamas terrorist rulers of the Gaza Strip does not prove lack of intent. The claim that there is no intention to harm civilians is contradicted by reality. The Gaza terrorists frequently shoot rockets and firebombs at Israeli civilian areas. Hamas’ targeting of Jewish civilians is part and parcel of its mission — as set out in its governing charter — to kill the Jews and to replace Israel with an Islamic state. Hamas’ charter includes this item: “The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: ‘The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’ …”

Other speakers

PLAY (Speaker: Paul Noursi)

Afternoon speakers notably complained about alleged restrictions on boycotting Israel related to false accusations against the Jewish state. Paul Noursi, anti-Israel activist, asserted at 4:20 p.m.: “The best peaceful nonviolent punishment option in the case of Israel/Palestine is boycott actions called BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). It worked to peacefully thwart apartheid in South Africa and we believe it can work against apartheid and human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine but we need to work on defending the rights of free speech in order to achieve that.” Similar claims were uttered by other speakers.

BDS started in 2005 as a nonviolent protest about the predicament of the Palestinians. It evolved into demands to halt business with Israeli companies and the government of Israel, and ultimately to destroy the Jewish state. The movement established links to individuals and organizations that have been tied to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist rulers of Gaza, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. What BDS actually advocates for is the end of Israel.

Omar Barghouti, a founder of BDS, has explained that the ultimate goal is a state where “by definition, Jews will be a minority.” Other BDS activists have expressed similar sentiments. BDS is not a human rights movement. Furthermore, the BDS movement potentially jeopardizes the existence of thousands of jobs in businesses employing West Bank Arabs. It is ironic that while Arabs in Israel have more legal rights and exercise them with more assurance than Arabs in any other country in the Middle East, Israelis are the only target of BDS activists.

Boycott supporters, like Noursi, typically equate the BDS movement to the South African anti-apartheid movement. But Israel is in no way like South Africa, where a minority of whites ruled over a majority of blacks who were denied the most fundamental human rights. In Israel, Arabs, Druze and Christians have equal rights and serve in high positions in government, business, the arts and academia. Likewise, the West Bank Palestinians run their own civil affairs with Israelis only entering their communities to pursue terrorists who have committed violence against Israelis.

Activists like Noursi, falsely complaining about the abridgement of “the rights of free speech” in connection with BDS, are referring to the legislation in various states that does not restrict constitutionally-protected free speech or limit criticism of Israel or its policies. What it does is narrowly target commercial activity. The legislation does not create potential criminal or civil liability for BDS actions. Individuals who actively avoid purchasing goods and services because of their own political viewpoint would not be punished. The anti-BDS legislation is typified by the Texas version signed into law. The statute “prohibits all state agencies from contracting with, and certain public funds from investing in, companies that boycott Israel,” The governor stated that “We will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.” Likewise, in compliance with its anti-BDS law, New Jersey divested from Denmark’s largest bank for boycotting Israeli companies.

Epilogue

Whatever are the strengths and weaknesses of AIPAC, unlike the WRMEA anti-Israel group, it is not dependent upon falsehoods and distortions to make its case. In its zeal to vilify the “Israel lobby” and grossly exaggerate the influence of AIPAC, the WRMEA group, like its fellow travelers, ignores the fact that the key component of support for Israel is represented by continuing majority support among the American people for Israel especially among the sizable community of Christian Zionists (for example, Christians United for Israel, CUFI, which speaks for 5 million Christians).

As for C-SPAN, in its daily three-hour morning call-in show, Washington Journal, as well as in its coverage of various public events, it continues to routinely air unchallenged defamation of Israel and the Jewish people.

This outrageous situation continues to be ignored by Congress (which grants special access privileges to C-SPAN), the news media and C-SPAN’s patrons including the cable/satellite television providers such as Comcast. Barring a huge public outcry, there’s little reason to expect any change.